The very rich have no need of character – Hebrew proverb

Jho “Felonious” Low thought character was overrated anyway so he concentrated on keeping the police in Macao happy so everybody there could continue to live happily ever after.

His wife, the low-profile, Mrs Felonious didn’t want too much out of life either. All she’d wanted was a husband who was kind and understanding which she didn’t think was asking too much of a billionaire.

Felonious thought The Way Forward lay in living as quietly and as low-profile as possible which is Evading Capture 101 for all criminal masterminds on the run.

That was why he was now scanning the papers with a furrowed brow. Even his cigar remained in hand, unlit.

The object of the stout scalawag’s consternation was a report that the Malaysian King had invited Fearless Leader, a former co-worker and helpmate of Felonious, to break the Ramadan fast at the Palace. It seemed as appropriate as inviting Tim Leisner to address the World Economic Forum.

Even so, there they all were, cheerfully breaking the fast together. The pictures have since been posted on the Net. And there has been no lack of comment!

Fearless seems oblivious to public perception which is strange and uncharacteristic of the veteran politician that he obviously is. Or perhaps he’s cynical enough to understand the truth behind the Phyllis Diller quip: “Those who have money to burn are often surrounded by people with matches.”

But there is another quote that seems more germane to this issue: “The poor and ignorant will continue to lie and steal so long as the rich and educated show them how.” Alas, I can’t remember its author, but it does seem to fit.

Fearless was found guilty by two consecutive courts of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering, and faces a 12-year sentence pending a final appeal to the Federal Court. Meanwhile, he faces other, equally daunting, charges including one for evading taxes of over RM1 billion. We should also keep in mind the media’s description of the fraud at 1MDB as the “greatest theft in human history.”

But he remains free on bail, enjoys all the perks of an ex-premier including outriders, and traipses all over the country, campaigning, speaking, and having dinners. This is in stark contrast to the treatment meted out to former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim: he was denied bail at the outset for a crime many other countries do not even recognise.

Meanwhile, the Fearless precedent is already taking root. A Kelantan farmer facing jail time for committing grievous bodily harm was given bail after he cited Fearless’ precedent of remaining free despite convictions by two courts.

Viewed in its broader context, the Dinner at the Palace is perplexing to say the least. The signal it sends out is downright appalling as it seems to suggest that criminality can be condoned in certain circumstance.

Felonious sat up with a jerk as he pondered these significant portents. There was a moral to this story somewhere and he thought he knew the answer.

Life was just a breathing spell, and it was better to live rich than die rich.



It’s not well known but some famous dishes are a result of epiphanies, or moments of sudden revelation that lead to profundity.

Example: most people know about Julius Caesar. That he was a Roman Emperor, and that he was the first gynaecologist (the Caesarean), etc.

But not many know the salad that still bears his name, arose from an epiphany JC experienced around 54 BC.

He was striding angrily across the parade grounds to berate a recumbent Cicero when he stopped, transfixed: he’d just spotted a hen gazing at some lettuce and a tomato.

A lesser, more superstitious man – “something fowl this way comes” – might have screamed for salt to toss over his left shoulder. A religious man – “lettuce pray” – might have been moved to piety.

Not JC, he immediately grasped the significance implicit in a Chicken Sees A Salad.

Some additions later – cheese, fruit and capers – and a now-awake Cicero recorded history’s first Caesar salad.

Similarly, when Emperor Sujin occupied the Chrysanthemum Throne, eels were a menace. There were simply too many of the yucky pests around. It was, to be sure, an eel wind that made no one eel-ated.

“Will no one rid me of this troublesome beast?” mused the Emperor. It was a question that had some relevance in 16th Century England but More of that later.

Surrounded by mirin, sake, sugar and soy sauce in his kitchen, the failed chef Matsumo Unagi was smoking a moody cigarette and contemplating suicide when a moray eel suddenly flopped out of the pond behind him.

A weaker man might have swigged the wine, the better to calm his nerves. A vengeful man would have stabbed the beast in rage.

But Matsumo was made of sterner stuff so he did both. He sipped the wine and sliced and diced the creature. In mounting rage, he then grilled it to perfection in a concentrated marinade of the spirits, sugar and soy sauce.

The resulting transcendence pleased Emperor Sujin no end and the chef was declared a National Treasure before lending his name to a dish forever synonymous with Dean Martin’s version of love (“That’s Amore”).

Unfortunately, it’s become a victim of its own success: eels are fast diminishing in Asia.

Enter desperate remedies.

Dutch border police arrested three Malaysians Thursday for attempting to smuggle thousands of baby eels through Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

The police got suspicious after the rocket scientists tried to take eight large suitcases through airport security. No one, it seems, told them anything about X-ray scanners,

“Inside the cases were bags with water and baby eels,” the Dutch food and goods watchdog said. Indeed, the inspectors discovered 105 kilograms of glass eels. That’s around 300,000 eels, enough unagi to keep three score and ten Japanese restaurants busy for three days.

Maybe they were following set examples. Many a Malaysian leader had been found wallowing in corruption like a rhinoceros in an African pool so, mindful of precedent, the three may have simply tried Dutch rivers.

Over the last four decades, critically endangered European eel populations have been devastated, falling by as much as 99% in some areas, according to EU figures.

Young transparent eels, known as “glass eels,” are particularly prized in Asia, where they are fattened in farms before being sold at prices in excess of caviar’s.

It would have brought a tear to Matsumo’s eyes.

And, on that note, Happy Easter everyone.



I’m an atheist…thank God – Comedian Dave Allen

Who knew that Malaysia’s counter-terrorism chief Normah Ishak had a dry sense of humour?

Take this statement for instance: “The recognition by an Islamic party for the Taliban’s struggle augurs well for fans of terrorism in Malaysia,” Normah was quoted as saying in a recent webinar on Afghanistan.

The counter-terrorism chief was talking about that group of people who know an awful lot about very little – the Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas. More specifically, she was referring to Pas’ admiration for, and recognition of, the Taliban government of Afghanistan.

The party was, apparently, banking on the Taliban to improve its Islamic image. Its head of International Affairs Abdul Khalil Hadi had tweeted his party’s congratulations to the Taliban after the hard-line group had taken over Kabul in August.

Khalil is PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s son, which reinforces the notion of the apple not falling far from the tree.

True enough, the father echoed the son’s sentiments two weeks later. In a statement published in the party’s organ Harakah on August 25, Hadi claimed that the Taliban’s leaders had “changed” and were heading in the right direction.

He also urged Muslims not to be influenced by the coverage of the Taliban by the Western media, which he described as “evil”.

Normah explained the method behind Pas’ madness. “They are creating narratives to the party’s advantage, forming opinions and perceptions among Muslims in Malaysia, so that they will think the Taliban are okay now,” Normah said.

To paraphrase her, “fans of terrorism” will undoubtedly be dancing in the aisles. People who think that the danger of terrorism in Malaysia is much exaggerated should think again.

Three years ago, I was invited to a briefing by a very senior cop to the senior management of a listed company. The briefing was about terrorism.

In the beginning, we were shown slides of training camps, young people using guns and other weapons to, essentially, learn how to kill.

Most of the camps were in the Middle East, while I supposed the last two to be camps in the Philippines or Indonesia because their backdrops were “green.”

I was half-right. The last slide, we were told, was in a camp somewhere in “the vicinity” of Kuala Kangsar that “we’ve been watching for some time.”

God bless our Special Branch: they’re ahead of the curve.

That’s why the Islamic Party’s narrative is confounding. It flies in the face of the Malaysian government’s refusal to recognise the Taliban. It’s yet another reason to kick it out of the government.

Pas is still a part of the federal government although its contributions are generally in the “Less is More” category.

It’s safe to say that Messrs Hadi and Hadi don’t read widely because they were clearly unaware of the Kandahar commander who ordered all the women employed in a bank there to go home while their jobs were filled by men whose only ideas of banking or finance were previously gleaned from the business end of a Kalashnikov.

It isn’t clear if the same order applied to all the female doctors at Kandahar General.

“I’m sorry, I’m unable to do your hernia op right now, Commander,” says Dr Ayesha as she divests herself of mask and surgical gown. “But here’s my cousin, Ali, who’s got lots of experience with sheep.”

Who says I’m kidding?

Thus far the Taliban have grimly forbidden all things Gillette, quietly encouraged opium cultivation, and continued to discriminate against women and minorities.

And this is the model Pas holds up as its exemplar?

It’s got to be kidding!



The older I get, the better I used to be – Leo Tolstoy

A Malaysian billionaire once told me that all entrepreneurs were optimists. “We have to be,” he said. “And I think that’s why we succeed.”

I wouldn’t say Dr Mahathir, 96, is an optimist of the rose-tinted variety. I mean, he isn’t the sort of fellow who thinks a bull wouldn’t hit him because he’s a vegetarian, but he has an amazing propensity for snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat.

The ancient physician, who counted Maharaja Lela as an old friend and had never approved of J W W Birch either, might have been a tad optimistic about his party’s recent showing in the Johor state elections.

The aged medico ascribed his party’s loss to “money politics.” If he believes that, he’ll probably believe there’s light at the end of the rainbow.

His blithe assessment is reminiscent of the fellow who, while treed by a hungry lion prefers to enjoy the scenery. Dr Mahathir pointed out that despite only having about 5,000 members in Johor, his party, Pejuang, managed to garner more than 18,000 votes, which he claimed was “proof” that the party was still capable of drawing supporters.

Here’s the math: Pejuang contested in all 42 seats which means, on average, it got 438.6 votes per seat. That’s pitiable. His party didn’t just lose, it received a drubbing, with all 42 candidates losing their deposits.

Meanwhile, the wily doctor revealed that former premier Muhyiddin Yassin had recently approached him to ask for his help to regain the PM’s post.

It’s become a problem in Malaysia: if they’re not part of the solution, they’re probably running for Prime Minister.

Muhyiddin torpedoed the PH coalition he helped form by cobbling together a coalition of Malay parties to become PM in 2020. He didn’t last two years before they turned on him and threw him out.

Politics is supposedly the second oldest profession in the world, but the events of the last three years has clearly shown its resemblance to the first.

As PM, Muhyiddin was unremarkable at best. The old man, however, was scathing in his assessment of his former Cabinet colleague. He said Pejuang was “not going to support somebody who as the prime minister was as much a failure as Najib.”

What did MY expect? Tea and sympathy?

When Dr M was a teenager, history hadn’t yet been included in the school syllabus and in his 90s, he still shows no inclination to retire. At the same press conference where he dropped the bomb on MY, he was asked – hint, hint – to comment on 70-something politician Lim Kit Siang’s retirement from all forms of politics.

The crafty medic said while he “might” – note not “would” – not contest in the next general election, he “was not leaving Pejuang yet.”

“I cannot make a decision now because I have to abide by the decision of my party. So it’s something we will decide later.”

In short, he intends to remain around forever or the next 20 years, whichever comes first.